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Letter: We Need No Further Museum Decisions Until the Full Council and Public Have Their Say

Guildford Museum 02From: Gordon Bridger

Hon alderman and former mayor

I am pleased to note that Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has set up a committee to review the future of the museum. and that it is to be chaired by Cllr Geoff Davis (Con, Holy Trinity), a town centre councillor and someone with real experience of property development.

He and the council are rightly concerned with the drop in museum visitor numbers  in recent years, a trend not reflected in most other museums. No doubt  a first step will be to identify the cause of decline.

I trust those with experience will make their views known as soon as possible to the Committee. Dr. Mary Alexander with her unique knowledge would be invaluable in this respect.

No doubt the committee will also investigate the two failed applications to the Heritage Lottery Fund as they should shed some light on what has gone wrong and what has to be rectified. It would also be interesting to know how much they cost.

Cllr Davis seemed to have been landed with ill thought out advice to eject the Surrey Archaelogical Society (SAS) from the small space they occupy at the museum after more than 100 years of good community work.

The grounds given are that the town of Guildford does not have Surrey wide responsibility for the society’s work and that they are a wealthy organisation.

I am puzzled by both these reasons. As the county town of Surrey we should surely have a county museum. Secondly, it is council policy to support a museum (see tourist policy).

Since they have funds and do good work we should be relieved – not penalise them. And since they own around half the council’s collections it seems not only ungrateful but unwise to eject them; we risk losing them to Woking. Is this really what we want?

The decision to eject the SAS and to abandon any GBC responsibility for a Surrey museum are policy and legal decisions which, as far as can be ascertained, have not been approved by the full council. Many councillors will be surprised, perhaps even alarmed.

The proposal to sell off a valuable listed building, partly formed by the walls of Guildford Castle, an historic monument, for use as a private dwelling perhaps, is a pity, and without having a clear idea where the museum can go it is certainly premature. A new museum is likely to cost far more than these buildings will realise.

This needs a proper debate at a full council meeting with public participation and I do hope this will take place before any further decisions are made.

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One Response to Letter: We Need No Further Museum Decisions Until the Full Council and Public Have Their Say

  1. Mary Alexander Reply

    August 11, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    Most county towns have a county museum, usually founded by the county archaeological society. Current local authority boundaries are irrelevant.

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